From Digital Audit to Digital Strategy: Quick Guide to Assessing a Brand’s Performance (Part III)

On Part II of this series, I discussed how companies can conduct a quick, yet thorough SEO audit of their brand(s) to understand whether their website has the content, structure and standing to attract desired target audience. This post will focus on the third lever to generate strong consumer engagement – brand communities. Specifically, on how brands can measure their community’s sentiment and foster organic and sponsored communities. As you read today’s blog, feel free to share specific communities that have stood out / appealed to you as a consumer.

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PART III: Building Brand Communities

Brand communities are formed for or by consumers with similar interests / purposes to collaborate, share information and connect with like-minded consumers. Through communities they are able to network, obtain valuable information and receive validation for their knowledge / interests. Communities can be sponsored (organized by a brand – i.e. Sony’s Playstation Community) or organic (organized by fans – i.e. Cult of Mac). Measuring consumer sentiment and fostering these communities matter for three key reasons. First, because brand communities deepen engagement with a brand – they are all about identity, belonging and an emotional connection. Second, because their membership tends to be more stable and active – the types of members that can be your advocates or ambassadors. Third, because they promote shared leadership among group members, which can increase word-of-mouth or UGC for a brand. This post will focus on sponsored communities as these are the ones marketers have control over (organic communities are more of a brand’s dream!).

Communities should have a defined purpose and strategic goal so the first step would be to understand your brand sentiment to decide what type of community would best fit your audience, personality and business objectives.


A useful free tool to measure sentiment is Social Mention. It allows you to track mentions for select keywords in video, blogs, comments, Q&A, hash tags, news, etc. It looks at four indicators – strength, sentiment, passion and reach – and also signals if mentions are positive, negative, or neutral.

  • Strength is the likelihood that a brand is being discussed on social media.
  • Sentiment is the ratio of mentions that are positive to those that are negative.
  • Passion is a measure of the likelihood that individuals talking about a brand will do so repeatedly.
  • Reach is a measure of the range of influence.

Similar to last week, I selected Boston College as the example given our proximity to the brand:

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As you can see above, BC has great strength and an excellent positive to negative ratio. Its reach is average, but there is certainly room for growth with regards to passion. This is further exemplified by the below piece of the output, which shows the great extent of “neutral” mentions. Taken together, these stats suggest consumers that would be receptive to a formal community that fosters passion – perhaps one revolving around sports (given how often sports-related keywords are searched for) or one around the complex admissions / college preparedness process.

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This tool can give managers a better idea of where their brand is strong, what keywords consumers use when talking about the brand, and potentially shed light on the type of community that would make the most sense.


For communities to work for a brand, they need to:

  • Elicit participation / collaboration
  • Revolve around a common objective or goal (communities that are too broad don’t tend to resonate as well)
  • Have a solid offline consumption experience
  • Promote, encourage and reward participation

Here are a two communities that have stood out to me as a consumer.

My Starbucks Idea

My Starbucks Idea is a key source for community insights, feedback and ideas. In fact, passionate community members have proposed close to 300 different ideas that have been implemented by the company, ranging from the incorporation of in-store wi-fi networks to the addition of new flavors such as peach green tea lemonade.

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Sephora’s Beauty Talk

Beauty Talk is a branded community composed of like-minded makeup experts and newbies that seek to explore the best beauty products for their styles, complexities and tastes. Community members share photos and experiences, and review products. The result is greater engagement and conversion – with community members spending 10x mores than non-community members.

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Are you a member of any community?

Have any stood out to you?


  1. Another informative post! Brand communities are pretty fascinating, especially when certain brand rituals take on almost a cult like structure (e.g. Crossfit in my opinion). We read a HBR article last year, “Understanding Brands”, which talked about achieving communal integration when we purchase and use brands. These brand communities are said to offer significant benefits to their members (e.g. belonging to a larger group; members offering help; development of brand rituals). I remember one question I had after reading this article was whether companies can actually create/manufacture these communities from the start or does the strong brand come first, followed by the community? One thing I have learned over the past year is that companies can certainly play a role in fostering communities, and you mention some great examples. One point id like to add to your information is the idea that communities can have 4 types of people as we learned in marketing research:

    – Tourists (passing interest and view community as an occasional resource)
    – Minglers (strong social ties and low consumption)
    – Devotees (low social ties and strong consumption)
    – Insiders (strong social ties and strong consumption

    For example, am a Devotee to the Lululemon brand community :)

  2. Really great series. I hope you’re learning a lot in researching these blog posts.

  3. @lakyaks Great memory! The 4 types of members would have been a great addition! I am certainly a Starbucks devotee :) Also, to answer your previous question, research seems to suggest that everything starts with a strong brand – one with a defined personality and point of difference. Once this clear message is understood by consumers and the industry, it makes sense for companies to either create/sponsor a community or hope that one comes about organically (much harder, but it happens). And @geraldckane, I have been learning a lot indeed so I’m glad a opted for a brand-centric series. Thank you both!

  4. Great post! I like your spotlight on ‘Social Mention’ and examining a brands strength and performance. As we’ve discussed, it’s important to know your audience so that social media’s potential can be optimized.

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